New discovery in ancient history

28th Feb 2013

Holidaymakers with a passion for ancient history are bound to be intrigued by a newly discovered Asian artefact.

More than 500 years after it was looted by Japanese invaders, a hat which belonged to South Korea's most revered monarch King Sejong has been recovered. Amazingly, documents were found stitched inside the hat which carry explanations of the king's greatest legacy - the Hangeul alphabet.

According to a senior scholar, the discovery of the documents has thrilled academics. The professor of Korean language and literature at Kyungpook National University, Lee Sang-Gyu, told journalists that the cicada-wing hat (the Ikseongwan) was originally purchased in Japan last year by a collector from South Korea who subsequently decided to donate the relics to the state.

The professor said that the documents are believed to be at least two years older than the current documents in use explaining the principles behind the creation of the Korean alphabet.

The hat's original owner, Sejong the Great, ruled from 1418-1450. His reign saw the introduction of the Hangeul phonetic alphabet that replaced classical Chinese characters. The new alphabet greatly increased literacy and remains the official script of both North and South Korea.

A national holiday takes place to commemorate the alphabet's creation, while the king's statue occupies an honoured place in the centre of Seoul.


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